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An associate degree is all she needed to land dream job at Armada Hoffler

Amanda Mills didn’t want to cripple herself with student debt and needed a flexible class schedule to balance three kids, two jobs and a husband on deployment.

She turned to Tidewater Community College to explore her options and after completing an associate degree and a certificate landed a dream job shortly after graduation.

“I love what I do,” said Mills, database administrator for Armada Hoffler Properties in Virginia Beach’s Town Center.

Information technology was a natural field for Mills, even if she didn’t initially realize it.

The Oscar Smith High graduate started working at Union Mission Ministries as a teen, first at its summer camp and later in the office doing data processing. After high school, she considered physical therapy, but the TCC program was too demanding given all her outside responsibilities. She also considered becoming a teacher until she was directed toward the college’s information technology degree.

It turned out to be the ideal fit.

“I liked math,” she said. “It’s all logic. Everything I was learning made sense to me.”

Night and online classes allowed her to continue to work two jobs while going to school and Pell Grants paid for most of her tuition. Instructor Mary Gable, in particular, helped her navigate all the material.

Mills graduated with her Associate of Applied Science in Information Systems Technology along with a Career Studies Certificate in Database Specialist in May.

By the end of the summer, Mills was hired by Armada Hoffler, where the skills learned at TCC directly apply to her job, particularly the SQL coding. She builds, updates and maintains the property company’s database.

“I didn’t know SQL before I came to TCC,” she said. “Now that’s my bread and butter.”

Mills toys with the idea of getting her bachelor’s but the foundation she got at TCC and professional experience will allow her to advance in the field.  “Eventually, maybe I’ll go for my bachelor’s,” she says. “But I have a great job with an associate degree.”

Interested in earning your Associate of Applied Science in Information Technology or your Career Studies Certificate in Database Specialist? Contact Bill Clement, dean of the Division of Information Technology and Business, at or 757-822-7124.


The byte-by-byte breakdown of a career you can jumpstart with just a certificate

Look around you or better yet, stare at your phone. It’s full of data. So is the grocery store you shop in, the college you attend and that company you hope to work for. Check your social media accounts and you’ve no doubt noticed advertisements targeted to your tendencies – that’s information gleaned from mining data.

Now imagine making a career in data. Pursue a Career Studies Certificate in Database Specialist at Tidewater Community College and you’ll be part of a growing field that relates to data management in any industry.

Business databases store vast amounts of information and rely on it to make smart decisions. Database specialists are proficient in designing, implementing, maintaining and troubleshooting all that information into an efficient, usable form. They are also responsible for ensuring that data is protected in an age where hacking is prevalent.

Mary Gable
Instructor Mary Gable with student Jessica Tate

Lemuel Taku earned his database specialist certificate last spring and is already employed as an Oracle application developer for a resort in Alabama. While he is working toward his Associate of Applied Science in Information Technology from TCC by taking online classes, he is happy by how fast he was able to earn the certificate that led to his job.

The 27- or 28-credit certificate, dependent upon which elective you choose, can be earned in as little as two semesters. Classes are either in the evening at the Virginia Beach Campus or online.

Key for Taku and for any student looking to get a leg up, said instructor Mary Gable, are the industry certifications that the certificates prepares students for.

“That’s what employers are looking for,” Gable said. “Every course in this program is 100 percent hands-on.”

Graduates of the program are prepared to sit for Oracle Database 11g Administrator Certified Associate (OCA Administrator); Oracle Database SQL Certified Expert; and Oracle PL/SQL Developer Certified Associate (OCA Developer).

Taku passed all of them. He got a boost from taking advantage of free software TCC provides that allows students to answer practice questions to prepare for the exams.

TCC students also receive discounts on each of the exams.

Lamuel Taku

During the program, students will learn to install an Oracle Database and have access to it throughout the semester. One of the electives covers installation and the study of other databases, both MySQL and SQL Server. Gable also encourages students to install the database on their laptops so they can work on assignments at home.

Two classes she touts are ITD 132, Structured Query Language, and ITD 251, Database Systems Development. In the 132 class, students learn SQL, a generic language that Gable said is transferrable to multiple databases in the information technology fields. The 251 class is a capstone project course that allows students to work together as a team to complete a project to apply what they’ve learned to a real-world problem. Both Dominion Enterprises and a local cybersecurity firm, G2OPS, have served as former clients.

“I was able to bring that up in my interview, and it helped me a lot,” said Taku, whose project focused on security compliance.

For information about the program, contact Gable at or Bill Clement, dean of the Division of Information Technology and Business, at